Thursday 23 January 2020

Fraudster granny and partner found dead in Limerick farmhouse staged 'suicide pact'

Julia Holmes and her partner Tom Ruttle
Julia Holmes and her partner Tom Ruttle

David Raleigh

The exact causes of the deaths of a fraudster granny and her partner who were found dead in a Limerick farmhouse cannot be determined.

The badly decomposed bodies of 63-year-old Julia Holmes and Thomas Ruttle (56) were found in the upstairs bedroom of the home they shared at Boolaglass, Askeaton, County Limerick on May 18 last year.

SUICIDE PACT: Bigamist and con woman Julia Holmes and Thomas Ruttle died last Summer
SUICIDE PACT: Bigamist and con woman Julia Holmes and Thomas Ruttle died last Summer

Medical evidence from a pathological report into the couple's deaths could not confirm how they died, however Coroner Antoinette Simon, said she accepted all of the evidence pointed to a "suicide pact".

Holmes, from Tyrone, was wanted by the FBI and the PSNI for a series of property frauds. She had served time in jail in Texas for a $500,000 (€443,825) fraud.

Holmes, who was married to two other men when she tried to marry Mr Ruttle, had falsely claimed she had cancer.

She ran up debts of €70,000 with builders in West Limerick who had performed improvement works at the Ruttle home.

Mr Ruttle had no involvement in any of Holmes crimes.

The Coroner said she was satisfied Holmes and Mr Ruttle both died of "an asphyxia type death due to carbon monoxide poisoning".

The deadly fumes were caused by burnt charcoals, the court heard.

"The bedroom was deliberately staged to induce carbon monoxide poisoning," Ms Simon said.

No third party was involved and there was no sign of trauma to the bodies.

Sergeant Gearoid Thompson, gave testimony that "members of the Harty family", a Traveller family from Askeaton, told him they had been "looking for scrap metal" at the Ruttle farmhouse but instead they "found two dead bodies".

When Sgt Thompson went to the house he said he noticed a strong "smell of dead bodies".

He found the bodies lying next to each other on a double bed.

State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy noted Mr Ruttle was "lying on his back with his right leg hanging over the bed".

She said his leg was "resting" on a .22 rifle, which was loaded with two cartridges.

The rifle had not been fired, nor had another shotgun - also found in the bedroom - the court heard.

Julia Holmes, whose family did not attend the inquest, was located "face down" on the bed and "dressed in pyjamas".

Mr Ruttle's sister, Jane Gardner, wept as she listened to the last moments of her brother's life.

Her husband John Gardener thanked the jury and the Gardai.

The Coroner said it was "the most tragic of circumstances and saddening of situations".

Suicide notes left at the house were not read out.

Mr Ruttle's teenage children shed tears as they listened to the shocking evidence.

They were accompanied by their mother Lian, and grandparents Ted, and Pauline Knight.

In a heartbreaking moment during the inquest, Mr Ruttle's ex partner Lian Knight asked the coroner if it was possible to determine who had died first.

She politely nodded as Prof Cassidy told her it was, "impossible to say".

Speaking afterwards, Ted Knight described the events as "horrific" and said Holmes had been a "vile person."

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